Going gluten-free has gained a large following in recent years. Many adopt a gluten-free diet for medical reasons. Others are hoping that eliminating gluten will be the magic to eliminate allergies, improve digestion and help with weight loss.
I admit I like the idea that eliminating gluten, a protein found in many grains, could solve all these problems. Simple answers are alluring but the truth is a bit more complex.
For celiacs, going gluten-free can be live-saving but for the vast majority of us, gluten-sensivity symptoms, such as weight gain, bloating, allergies and fatigue, may actually be an indication of a much broader problem with carbohydrates.
You may have issues with food intolerances to carbohydrates or FODMAPs. Basically, FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are difficult to digest in some people, causing irritable bowel symptoms.
FODMAPs is an acronym for:
F – Fermentable
O – Oligosaccharides (kinds of sugars) in foods such as cereals, bread, biscuits, cakes, pasta
D – Disaccharides (lactose), for example, dairy foods
M – Monosaccharides (fructose) in fruit juice, honey, peas, jams, snack bars
A – and...
P – Polyols (sugar alcohols) found in fruits with stones and some vegetables, such as onions and leeks. Also found in artificial sweeteners and sugar-free gum
Individuals with FODMAPs’ intolerances may have to remove some grains, along with some other carbohydrates, to resolve their issues. Food intolerances can cause a whole host of unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms. They result from the gut’s inability to digest certain foods normally. The problem could be due to a change in gut bacteria and intestinal irritation.
Many individuals who reduce their intake of FODMAPs find their symptoms improve. This diet eliminates certain foods that require specific enzymes to be digested. In the absence of these enzymes, these foods are poorly absorbed, leading to abdominal pain, gas, bloating, burping and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
You can assess your tolerance for foods high in FODMAPs by eliminating them for 6-8 weeks and then gradually reintroducing them to identify troublesome foods. You reintroduce one food every four days with a two-week break between bothersome foods. The goal is to identify the threshold at which you’re able to consume FODMAP-containing foods.
Here is a list of the compounds found in certain foods that are poorly absorbed and lead to symptoms.
Lactose---found in cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, and their products.
Fructose---a carbohydrate found in fruit, honey, high-fructose corn syrup and agave syrup. Not all fructose-containing foods need to be eliminated on the FODMAPs diet.
Fructans---carbohydrates that are malabsorbed in the absence of an enzyme needed to break them down. Limit wheat, onions and garlic, along with other vegetables high in fructans.
Galactans---carbohydrates that require an enzyme for absorption. Found in beans and lentils.
Polyols---Known as sugar alcohols. Found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and added as sweeteners to sugar-free gums, mints, etc. Limit sugar alcohols, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and maltitol.
Refer to this webpage for a list of foods to eliminate on the FODMAPs diet: